A Christian therapist who tried to turn a gay undercover journalist straight has been found guilty of professional malpractice.
This week, a professional trial at the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) unanimously ruled that Lesley Pilkington had acted unprofessionally.
Mrs Pilkington, 60, was secretly recorded last year by gay journalist Patrick Strudwick, who had approached her claiming to be a Christian who wanted to become straight.
She told him that his homosexuality was a “mental illness” and she could help him overcome it.
Such therapy is recognised almost universally as useless at best and harmful at worst.
Mr Strudwick, who won several awards for his expose, was also told by Ms Pilkington that he must have been sexually abused as a child by a member of his family.
After visiting her for counselling in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, he reported her to the BACP.
According to an article written by Mr Strudwick for the Guardian today, the BACP panel described Mrs Pilkington as “reckless”, “disrespectful”, “dogmatic” and “unprofessional”.
Mrs Pilkington’s BACP accreditation has been suspended and she must complete “extensive training and professional development”. If she does not comply, she may be struck off, the report says.
The BACP refused to provide PinkNews.co.uk with a copy of the ruling. A spokesman said Mrs Pilkington has 28 days to appeal and would not comment further.
Mrs Pilkington, who is supported by the Christian Legal Centre, accused Mr Strudwick of “irresponsible reporting” and of breaching the hearing’s confidentiality.
She said she would make “seek to make a joint complaint with the BACP to the Press Complaints Commission in relation to the subterfuge and deceit used by [him].”
She added: “Reparative therapy is a valid therapy that many people want and it should not be damaged by irresponsible reporting. The hearing is still subject to an appeal.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said Mrs Pilkington was being “persecuted” by gay rights campaigners.
She added: “We are grateful that the decision of the Professional Conduct Committee has not questioned the validity of reparative therapy and individuals are still free to seek counselling services for reorientation when they choose to change their behaviour.”
In January, the Christian Legal Centre claimed Mr Strudwick was “intimidating” Mrs Pilkington’s trial witnesses. The journalist responded that the other camp was conducting a “smear campaign” and did not actually have any witnesses.
Mr Strudwick’s undercover investigation, which also involved a psychiatrist who promised to cure gays, was published in the Independent last year and sparked anger in the gay community over the treatments.
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Strudwick said he was “delighted” with the outcome of the hearing.
He said: “This sends out a very strong message to psychotherapists in the UK and around the world that there practices are not accepted by mainstream medical opinion and are not supported by professional associations.
“I am somewhat disappointed that the BACP did not see fit to immediately strike Pilkington off but that is a matter for them.
“As for the Christian Legal Centre accusing me of breaching confidentiality, I would remind them that it was them who went to the press in the first place. I never named Pilkington.”
He added that the CLC had published a “large chunk” of the ruling on its own website.